Mr. Buzzy on Tour - Valderrama Golf Club, Spain

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Wow, wow and more wow …

I’ve played many courses in my life (over 325) and I have played some of the better country clubs in the USA but the overall conditioning of Valderrama had me baffled.

This course has some serious tournament history and it’s not somewhere everybody can just pitch up and ask to play. The green fee is quite steep for starters (€320) and they only open up a few tee times a day. This is a club owned by members since they bought it off the Ortiz-Patino family.

Constructed in 1974 as Sotogrande New by Robert Trent Jones Sr, the course was acquired by Jaimie Ortiz-Patino in 1984. The course was redesigned and extended again by Robert Trent Jones Sr. By 1999 it was generally recognised as one of if not, the best golf course in Europe. The 1997 Ryder Cup with an inspired Seve Ballesteros as European Captain firmly established the myth that is still Valderrama.

The course itself is not overly long by modern standards with a par of 71 and just under 7,000 yards. For British and Irish golfer, a slope of 147 wouldn’t mean much but it probably equates to a standard scratch of around 76 so 5 over par. This is not a pushover course. So what makes it so difficult ? As an example, I played in a pro-am shotgun start and our first hole was the 18th which is not the easiest of holes. My drive hugged the corner of the dogleg and ended up at the far end where we could see it sitting pretty. When we arrived to the ball, on the right hand side of the fairway, the distance to the flag was around 135 yards. Great result … except … we had no shot to the green let alone the flag. The only option was to hit an extra club over the left hand greenside bunker and chip back. I did and ended up making par. This is the main difficulty of the golf course, you have to be on the correct side of the fairway, the correct distance etc. which increases the pressure on your tee shot. Overhanging branches, well bunkered and small greens and generally 12 on the stimp will make any golfer doubt himself.

17th Par 5 … Graeme McDowell albatrossed this hole with a driver and a 7-iron ????

17th Par 5 … Graeme McDowell albatrossed this hole with a driver and a 7-iron ????

All the holes are great but some are memorable. The Par 5 fourth ‘La Cascada is certainly one of them. After two good shots I was left with around 130 yards. In the left hand rough and with the pin top right, it was hard to pick a line. There is nothing you can see bar the waterfall and the lake. Miss it right, you’re dead. Miss it left and up the slope, you’re dribbling it down a slippery green towards the water. It does really test every shot you have and requires some shots you haven’t got. Another cracking hole is 17 where Tiger famously dunked a couple in the lake fronting the green. Read the plaque indicating that Graeme McDowell hit driver - 7 iron en route to an albatross and wonder … I had one of my better drives of the day, admittedly into the wind, and was left with 245 yards, again into the wind. Not a hope in hell I was going to get there. Left myself short but unfortunately in a fairway bunker from where I hit it over the green … and plugged. Now I’m faced with a nightmare shot to a short pin and a green sloping away towards the water and nothing to stop my ball.

This is a course that keeps on testing you over and over. Physically demanding enough but mentally draining, Valderrama really is a ‘tick the box’ experience and if you ever have the chance, don’t hesitate. You’ll have clubhouse stories for months.

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One of the best courses I’ve played … ever. 

From the moment you enter the Sotogrande Resort it starts to dawn on you … this is not your average Spanish resort. The entrance to the club, although guarded and all is not that impressive, a few covered parking spots

Real Club Valderrama

Avda Los Cortijos s/n 11310 Sotogrande, Cadiz, España

T: +34 956 791 200

 Reservations & Information:

greenfees@valderrama.com 

President, Visconde de Pereira Machadopresidencia@valderrama.com

Vice President & Treasurer, Juan C. Garay Ibargaray

General Manager, Javier Reviriego Bóvedadireccion@valderrama.com

Words: Jo Maes (Mr. Buzzy) - Chairman of the European Golf & Travel Media Association.

4th hole - par 5 - Cascadas | a three tiered green flanked by water.

4th hole - par 5 - Cascadas | a three tiered green flanked by water.


Mr. Buzzy on Tour - Ballyliffin Glashedy Links , Ireland.

Ballyliffin, Inishowen, Co. Donegal - Ireland - www.ballyliffingolfclub.com

When the European Tour, under the influence of Rory McIlroy decided and announced Ballyliffin as the host for the Irish Open, a few eyebrows got lifted and questions were asked. What about access, what about accommodation, will the Irish travel all the way up there etc. Well, the answer was delivered emphatically when the event drew record crowds. The Glashedy is one of two courses on site with the Old Links, recently upgraded by Nick Faldo, the other option. The Glashedy is a Pat Ruddy (European Club / Druids Glen) / Tom Craddock links masterpiece where every shot has to be committed to. 

Donegal is a county with some of the most breathtaking views in all of Ireland.Everywhere you turn, the landscape is spectacular and to be able to play golf in such an area of natural beauty is always a treat. 

The Glashedy Links, played on a calm end of August day, was in perfect condition just weeks after the Irish Open. From the first tee shot to the last putt, this course requires attention. Go left and take on the bunker with he driver or stay right with the shorter club and leave a longer shot into the green? 

It starts on the first tee where it’s 205 yards to carry the left trap and 243 to roll into the 2nd … same on the 2nd, the tee points to the left bunker which is 258 but catches anything from 20 yards short of it. Hole 3 has some new bunkers put in and 280 gets you in between them. Now many of you will say, 280 yards … no way. This is a hard and bouncy links course and with the wind behind, one would easily flirt with these bunkers.

Every hole is different and each of them asks a different question, wether it’s from the tee or approaching the green. The putting surfaces are spectacularly good. They are true and fast for a links course. You pick your line and stroke the putter and the ball will reach the hole. 

Ballyliffin with its two courses and plenty of accommodation in the town must be on your play list if you’re serious about golf. This is links golf at its best.

Words: Jo Maes (Mr. Buzzy) - Chairman of the European Golf & Travel Media Association.

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Mr. Buzzy on Tour - Luttrelstown Castle Golf Course 5*, Ireland

The evolution of Luttrelstown Castle from medieval stronghold to comfortable estate goes hand in hand with the history of Ireland. Built as a Norman stronghold, the castle was initially owned by the Luttrells, who fought with William at Hastings and who were to play an important role in both English as Irish history. The castle is now open for functions and over the years, distinguished guests have graced the castle with their presence. Prince Rainier and Princess Grace, Fred Astaire, Paul Newman and Ronald Reagan have all stayed overnight and more recently, the castle was the venue for the Beckhams’ wedding.

Close to Dublin and just off the M3, Luttrelstown is easily reachable from the airport, the centre of town as well as from the North West. 

The McKenzie/Steele design features links style bunkers with high lips which are real hazards and measures 7,347 yards from the championship tees. Water features on 11 of the holes but doesn’t always come into play and is more an ecstatic feature on most holes. Mature trees and views of the castle on holes 2 and 3 plus the stretched views over the Liffey Valley on the back nine make this a tranquil course apart from the entrance road to the castle frequented by tourist busses. 

The nines have recently been reversed so now the first hole, a dogleg par 4 with a tee shot over water is not the easiest of starts. There is no real let up with hole 2 playing alongside water and again, hole 3, a long Par5 over and along water. The Par3 fourth again features water but from then on in, things get slightly easier. The stretch from the 6th till the 11th is where you need to build a score. My favourite hole was the long downhill 12th which would actually make for a great ‘short’ par 4 to take on with water on the right and back of the green. What I particularly liked is even when you hit it a bit astray, (yep, it does happen), you will in most cases find your ball and be able to navigate yourself back to the fairway to continue play.  The greens are spectacular, large, undulating, multiple levels and possible pin positions, a delight to navigate. The clubhouse is casual but provides dining and conference facilities for groups. A well stocked pro-shop and ample practice facilities completes the offering.

Words: Jo Maes (Mr. Buzzy) - Chairman of the European Golf & Travel Media Association.

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Mr. Buzzy on Tour: Flanders, Belgium?

Where can you putt towards a medieval castle ... Cleydael Golf Club near Antwerp.

Where can you putt towards a medieval castle ... Cleydael Golf Club near Antwerp.

Apart from giving the golfing world Augusta (which is a different story) ... there is plenty of golf in Belgium in general and in the northern part, or Flanders, in particular.

I bet you didn't know that the 2nd oldest golf club in Continental Europe is situated in Antwerp with the Royal Antwerp Golf Club founded in 1888. But apart from that and around Antwerp, which is one of Europe's most characterful cities, there are several golf clubs all within half an hour of the city centre. So hunker down in Antwerp where there is plenty of nightlife and go play Cleydael Golf Club and its 14th-century moated castle or venture to Rinkven and its 36 hole complex. There is golf on the other side of the river as well and in the new port with Beveren, a 9-hole links style golf course. One of the coolest hotels to stay in is the Martin's Patershof in Mechelen, the converted Franciscan church is within walking distance of the bars and restaurants along the river in Mechelen but there are also plenty of hotels in Antwerp to choose from. While you're there, get a tee time on Royal Antwerp and step back in time. Restored to its original features, the Royal Antwerp Golf Club is one of Belgium's top golf courses.

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Head West towards Ghent, Lonely Planet's favourite and coolest Belgian city where the Marriott Ghent Hotel has been erected inside three historic Guild Houses along the river Leie where once the majority of the world's grain trade was conducted. Walk outside and history sweeps you off your feet with 12th century houses, church towers, a Belfry and medieval squares. Within less than an hour's drive, there are several golf courses to be enjoyed. Damme Golf nearer the coast is a 27 hole parkland course which is easy to walk. Oudenaarde Golf, with 36 holes again designed around a historic manor house / clubhouse and Royal Latem Golf, one of Belgium's historic golf courses are within 30 minutes of the city centre. 

The Marriott Ghent on the historic Korenmarkt where once the world's grain trade was conducted.

The Marriott Ghent on the historic Korenmarkt where once the world's grain trade was conducted.

On the Eastern side of the region and around Belgium's oldest university town (1245) and the capital of Stella, Leuven, there is also plenty of golf. Head to Spiegelven, the pinetree-lined Ron Kirby design or take in Royal Limburg, the heather filled golf layout. There's Millennium Golf where Thomas Pieters practices and plays which is a modern lay out with plenty of bunkers and water hazards. It's in a mixed recreation area so you will see cyclists, walkers, sailors and paddle boarders mixing with golfers. Nearer to Leuven, the undulating golf course at Winge Golf is technical and requires all your shot making skills. 

Millennium Golf, one of Belgium's most recent golf courses.

Millennium Golf, one of Belgium's most recent golf courses.

Fly into Brussels Airport and pick up your rental car, you are maximum 1 hour away from all these iconic and historic cities. If you never thought of Belgium to go golfing, think again. With great food and the best beers in the world, this is not only a super destination for a lads trip but bring the misses. Shopping is out of this world in Ghent, Antwerp, Knokke and Leuven. 

The Martin's Hotel Group have hotels in virtually every city in Flanders but they are not just' hotels. They have converted old buildings and have given them a new lease of life. In Mechelen, the Franciscan church is now Martin's Patershof and in Leuven, the old nunnery and hospital is now the Martin's Klooster. All of them with full bar and restaurant facilities. Before flying out, the Martin's EU in the shadow of the fabulous building housing the EU parliament is conveniently located near the airport. In Ghent, the Marriott brand has converted three of the old 'guild' houses into a modern hotel and with the resident 'Midtown Grill' but also within walking distance of all the hot bars and restaurants, a hotel to be reckoned with. 

If you've never been, these itineraries are all worthwhile. The golf is honest, it provides value for money but the 'apres golf' activities are second to none. All cities have a vibrant bar and restaurant scene and are all steeped in history. Hence the old buildings, all carefully restored to provide you with that medieval feel.

On the website GolfinFlanders.com, you can find all the information you need about the golf clubs and special packages available.

Written by Jo Maes, President of the EGTMA, Europe's largest media association.

The Ghent Gravensteen, the medieval fortress dominating the centre of the city.

The Ghent Gravensteen, the medieval fortress dominating the centre of the city.